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Pakistani legislators elect Sharif ally Hussain to replace Zardari

Pakistani legislators have elected a veteran politician the new president. Overnight, militants attacked a jail in the county’s northwest with bombs, mortars and guns, liberating at least 230 prisoners.

Pakistan will swear the 73-year-old Mamnoon Hussain in for his largely ceremonial post on Sept. 9 at the presidential palace, which the incumbent Asif Ali Zardari will vacate at the end of his five-year term. Hussain received the post thanks to the vote of an electoral college made up of members of Pakistan's two houses of parliament and assemblies in four provinces.

Hussain won easily in the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan and got 41 out of 110 votes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He won 277 out of 311 combined votes in the upper and lower houses of parliament.

Experts had predicted a walkover win for the candidate favored by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz even before the main opposition Pakistan People's Party announced it would boycott the vote to protest a change in the election schedule. Ousted in a bloodless coup in 1999, Sharif's PML-N swept back into power in a May vote that marked the first transition between civilian governments in a country ruled by the military for more than half its history - and gave the prime minister a large swath of the parliament. Hussain, who won a five-year term, resigned his membership of the PML-N soon after the election, in what many see as a symbolic move to establish himself as a nonpartisan president.

Monday night's attack came just hours before Pakistan's lawmakers began voting for the new president. Up to 40 gunmen dressed in police uniforms bombed the outside wall of the Central Prison in the town of Dera Ismail Khan, 200 miles (320 kilometers) west of Lahore, forcing their way in to free hundreds of prisoners, including a number of militants. The attack began just before midnight and ended within several hours.

mkg/ph (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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